Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) doesn’t discriminate. Special Operations warfighters are as likely to deal with some sort of combat-related stress as their conventional brethren. And despite the prevalence of the disorder, servicemen are notoriously slow in seeking assistance.
One of the more common reasons for not seeking help is the desire to not seem weak in the eyes of one’s buddies. There are numerous other reasons, for instance, fear of losing one’s hard-earned security clearance with the concomitant negative effects on one’s career that something like that would entail. But the desire to appear tough in the face of mental adversity is on top. It takes a certain type of courage to accept one’s shortfalls publicly – though there is a certain amount of confidentiality around PTSD-related cases, it doesn’t take much for rumors or news to spread, especially if it’s a SOF unit where operators tend to be very close.
The Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) is trying to make easier the process of identifying the problem and seeking help for operators or enablers with PTSD. Partnering with the Mighty Oaks Foundation, MARSOC is trying to ensure the long-term health of its operators and the sustainability of the Command.
Founded in 2011 by Chad Robichaux and his wife, the Mighty Oaks Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides active-duty and veteran servicemen with assistance in their struggle with PTSD. Might Oaks assists people by peer-to-peer sessions and combat resiliency conferences.
“Before going to the [Mighty Oaks’] Legacy Program, I viewed guys who had PTSD as weak-minded and never understood how some guys could claim having PTSD, who had barely seen combat,” said Master Sergeant Ryan Evans, the operations chief for MARSOC’s Communications Directorate. “After completing the program, I understood that PTS affects people in a multitude of ways and having that understanding now helps me be more empathetic when talking with fellow Marines.”
Combat- and service-related stress is a significant reason behind the approximately 30 veteran suicides each day and the horrible divorce rate in military families.
Perhaps the most significant contribution of Mighty Oaks’ programs is the ability to treat warfighter without any medication, thereby making their treatment more sustainable and avoiding potential drug-related dangers.
“This program is a life-changing event,” commented retired U.S. Marine Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, the 16th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. “I’ve participated in the program and it truly opens up a new way of thinking. The program assists these warriors with going through life without needing medications or other medical forms of help. Chad’s aim is to truly help our warriors get better and his program hasn’t lost a warrior to date.”
Mental wounds can be as destructive – if not more — as physical. And they ought to be treated with the same seriousness.